Pamela Aidan provides an in-depth examination of the background, training, upbringing and psychological motivations of Fitzwilliam Darcy, while covering the same ground as the initial parts of Pride and Prejudice. While much of the story line overlaps the two books, we get much more insight, here, into Fitzwilliam Darcy's personality and motivations. The action covers the fall and winter of 1811.
Fitzwilliam George Alexander Darcy, known to his friends as “Fitz” or “Darcy”, is the only son of an extremely wealthy family, with a magnificent family estate, Pemberley and a house in London. He is “…a man of property…” “Under the careful tutelage of his father, Darcy had begun at an early age to learn what those words meant. He swore that his earliest memory was sitting astride a saddle, securely anchored in his father's lap. His fingers twisted in the horse's mane as the elder Darcy rode spring inspection of the farms and holdings of Pemberley.”
Both of Darcy's parents are dead, his mother when he was young child and his father eight years before the action in this book begins. He is the guardian, along with his cousin, Richard Fitzwilliam, of his sister, Georgiana, who is currently 16 years old. Darcy and Georgiana have a very close, loving relationship. Darcy was distraught and furious when George Wickham, the ne'er do well son of one of his father's servants, tried to get Georgiana to elope with him. As usual, Wickham's motivation was money. He is consistently in debt and thought that, by marrying Georgiana, all of his money troubles would be solved. The plot was discovered in time, but Georgiana was distraught. Darcy engaged a competent woman, Mrs. Annesley, to live with Georgiana, and to, little by little, help her to recover from her harrowing experience. He is successful. On 18 October 1811 Georgiana writes to Darcy “…Mrs. Annesley, wise woman that she is…” insisted “…on taking extended walks around Pemberley, claiming that only I could truly show her its beauties…She also encouraged me to take up what Mother had to lay aside so long ago: visiting the families of our tenants…I find myself no longer cast down about the past.”
Darcy, who is delighted by the news, receives Georgiana's letter while he is visiting Netherfield, a country estate rented by his very good friend Charles Bingley, Bingley is a younger man whom Darcy has advised during their college years, getting Bingley out of many scrapes. If Bingley finds Netherfield satisfactory, he may purchase it.
On the face of it, the two men could not be more unlike. Darcy is introspective, reserved, not easily pleased, and given to snobbishness. Bingley is cheerful, “...invariably and indiscriminately gregarious…”, and likely to overlook small problems with dress and manners.
Charles Bingley has two sisters, Caroline, who is unmarried and Louisa who is married to Mr. Hurst. “…Darcy wondered how Charles Bingley and his sisters could possibly be related…The Bingley sisters were not easily impressed and radiated a studied boredom in regard to all but the most exclusive of entertainments; their brother took pleasure in everything.”
Netherfield, the estate Charles Bingley has rented, is near the small market town of Meryton. With the exception of a contingent of soldiers who are based there, and a few families, most of the neighbors are country people. There are two major exceptions. One exception is the Bennets. Mr. Bennet is from a good family but married a very foolish woman. They have five daughters. The eldest, Jane, is considered to be the beauty of the county. The second daughter, Elizabeth, is less beautiful but charming and bright; the three youngest are generally considered to be very foolish and to have terrible manners. The second notable family is that of Sir William Lucas. The eldest daughter of Sir William, Charlotte, is a particular friend Elizabeth Bennet's.
The Bingley party – Charles, Darcy, Caroline, and Mr. and Mrs. Hurst – are attending a dance in the assembly hall at Meryton. As they enter, Darcy asks himself “How, exactly, did you allow Bingley to maneuver you into this ill-conceived foray into country society?” Bingley's sisters feel the same. “The expression that passed between them as they shook out their skirts was at once equal parts elegant disdain and long-suffering.” In contrast, Bingley's face “…was alive with excitement and curiosity.”
Charles Bingley enjoys himself immensely, dancing with many ladies and, especially, with Jane Bennet, who, he exclaims “…is the most beautiful creature I have ever beheld.” Caroline and the Hursts sneer at everything about their new neighbors – their clothing, manners, and dancing.
In general, Darcy doesn't understand the behavior of Caroline Bingley, and her sister and brother-in-law. “The exceeding amiability of his parents' marriage and the good sense and excellent understanding of those whose company they had enjoyed had ill-prepared Darcy for the nuances of the drawing room or assembly hall. Prevarication and pretty, insincere speeches had not been part of his education.”
However, Darcy, feels the same as Caroline and the Hursts, making a faux pas, which will haunt him for years. When Bingley tells him he should dance, Darcy replies “…it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.”
Unfortunately, Elizabeth Bennet overhears his remark. Since she was the only woman not dancing she, rightly, took his remark as a personal offense.
Also, unfortunately, Darcy eventually falls deeply in love with Elizabeth Bennet. She, however, cannot overcome her prejudice at hearing his comments. In addition, George Wickham, who is furious that he cannot marry Georgiana, is one of the soldiers stationed in Meryton; he has been spreading scurrilous rumors about Darcy, which Elizabeth hears and believes.
During the course of these pages, Darcy has two objectives: to explain himself to Elizabeth Bennet and win her regard; and to bring joy to his sister, Georgiana. While he does not accomplish the first, he does accomplish the second.
As the days of Darcy's visit pass, Charles Bingley falls deeply in love with Jane Bennet and, Charles believes, she with him. The whole town is gossiping that he will propose soon. Foolishly, Mrs. Bennet talks about the marriage, in public, as a done deal, so that many people overhear her. The Bingley sisters and Darcy become alarmed. They feel that the connection is entirely unsuitable; they devise a scheme whereby, while Charles is in London on business, Caroline will close Netherfield and go to London as well. Darcy convinces Bingley that Jane was not in love with him at all, and that not seeing her is for the best.
Christmas is approaching. Darcy has arranged to have Georgiana's portrait painted when they all go to London after the New Year.
Darcy returns to Pemberley for the Christmas holidays, giving his sister great joy.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like the story because it clarifies many of the things that took place in the parent work, Pride and Prejudice.
Best scene in story:
SCENE My favorite scene occurs after a shooting party. Darcy stays in the background, intent on training his new hound “just out of puppyhood, all legs and big feet, with a passion to please his master that verged on the comical.” Having heard that the dog retrieves sticks that Darcy throws, the squire said, “Mr. Darcy, sir…I hear you have a most accomplished hound. The word is that after it has presented you with your trophy, it gathers wood for a fire, unpacks your hunt bag, and prepares the game in the Italian style for your dinner!”
Opinion about the main character:
I like Fitzwilliam Darcy because he has honor and integrity, is loyal to his friends and family, is especially loving and protective to his sister, Georgiana, and because he treats the servants with respect. I dislike his snobbishness.